Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
Everyone wanted to hear from the tall guys down at court level — Phil Jackson and Kurt Rambis and Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis and other members of the 6-foot-8-plus club, searching for answers to another Knicks puzzlement.
But something more interesting went on far above them at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
It was there that row upon row full of normal-sized people stretched to the very last row of the upper level. There they stayed right to the end of the latest loss, another sellout crowd of 19,812 cheering hopefully in spite of it all.
Knicks fans continue to show up, year after year, coach after coach, hoping to celebrate the dawn of a new basketball day.
So feel sorry for them, no one else. That includes Melo, a sympathetic figure in a season in which he has played well, played unselfishly and played hurt. Yet on May 29, he will likely spend his 32nd birthday watching the playoffs. The Knicks enter the All-Star break five games out of the eighth and final playoff spot, with three teams in front of them.
A season of great hope and excitement has taken a turn over the past three weeks, not only because the Knicks lost 10 of 11 games or because of the justifiable ouster of coach Derek Fisher.
The most ominous warning flag now flies over the guy in charge of fixing all this, team president Phil Jackson.
Not quite two years after his dramatic introduction, we still cannot be sure whether he is cut out for the job.
And Jackson did nothing to reassure the rest of us Tuesday when he posted a 421-word tweet on his philosophy of what he looks for in a coach. Deciphering it proved to be a challenge.
Among other things he cited the influences of psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, whose Wikipedia pages are almost as difficult to understand as Jackson’s tweet.
On MSG Network, Al Trautwig asked Jackson what point he was trying to get across, and he got a somewhat less convoluted but still-circuitous response.
“There’s a style that I’m looking for in coaches and in how you approach your players and it makes sense,” Jackson said, “because I have a certain parameter of things that I believe and those things are sensible to me, about taking care of your players and how to take care of an individual, and part of it is players are looking to fulfill themselves and that’s our job, to nurture that as coaches.”
Jackson’s philosophical meanderings do not mean he can’t succeed at his job, of course. He won 11 rings as a coach even if Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant inevitably spent some of that time rolling their eyes at his cosmic ramblings.
Still . . . it makes you wonder.
Jackson’s best course at this stage is to stop thinking like a coach wedded to a particular system or philosophy. Just hire the best coach available — regardless of preferred playing style — and give him more quality players.
An elite point guard would be a nice start.
“The style of leadership I’ve been put in a box with is: transformational as juxtaposed to transactional,” Jackson wrote in his Twitter essay.
Presumably that makes sense to him. The Knicks must hope it leads to a wise decision on the next step for the franchise. The people in the last row are waiting.